The Kennedy Legacy

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Posts tagged John F. Kennedy

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                                          Life - After Camelot

Five decades later, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few utterly signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as those rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on November 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president.

There was Camelot — a media construct, of course, but a rarity in that it actually resonated with so many people, everywhere — and then there was the somber, profoundly uncertain period after Camelot. For countless millions in America and around the globe who lived through the near-surreal transition, the days and weeks after JFK’s assassination felt like a chilling, restless pause: a moment so charged with unease that even reflection, or taking stock, seemed impossible.

Here, on the 45th anniversary of JFK’s March 1967 reinterment, when his remains were moved from his initial resting place to the permanent grave site and memorial at Arlington, LIFE.com offers a gallery of photographs (some of them never before published) from the deeply fraught funeral held mere days after Kennedy was killed. While both ceremonies — the state funeral in ’63, and the reinterment three-and-a-half years later — were marked by sorrow, the rawness of the emotion evident in 1963 is still striking, and rending, today.

“A woman knelt and gently kissed the flag,” LIFE magazine reported of the scene as JFK’s casket lay in state for two days after his assassination. “A little girl’s hand tenderly fumbled under the flag to reach closer. Thus, in a privacy open to all the world, John F. Kennedy’s wife and daughter touched at a barrier that no mortal ever can pass again.”

The next day, Kennedy’s body was taken “from the proudly impassive care of his honor guard” and was carried from the Capitol rotunda to Arlington.

“By a tradition that is as old as Genghis Khan,” LIFE noted, “a riderless horse followed” the flag-draped casket, “carrying empty boots reversed in the stirrups in token that the warrior would not mount again…. Through all this mournful splendor Jacqueline Kennedy marched enfolded in courage and a regal dignity. Then at midnight she came back again, in loneliness, to lay some flowers on her husband’s grave.”

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Fidel Castro ‘knew of plot to kill John F. Kennedy’

                        

Fidel Castro may have known in advance about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald, a retired CIA officer has claimed.

According to Brian Latell, the agency’s former national intelligence officer for Latin America, a senior aide to the Cuban dictator was ordered to listen for “any little detail, any small detail from Texas” three hours before the president was shot dead on November 22, 1963.

The aide, Florentino Aspillaga, was stationed in a communications building next to Castro’s family home in Havana and spent most of his time listening for CIA radio signals.

But on the day of the assassination he was ordered to drop his usual surveillance of CIA communications, according to Mr Latell. Aspillaga was said to have been told “the leadership wants you to stop your CIA work, all your CIA work”, and to have been given specific instructions to focus only on Texas.

In 1987, Aspillaga became the most valuable defector from Cuba’s DGI intelligence service. He then told the CIA about the events in Cuba on the day of the assassination, but the information was never made public, according to Mr Latell.

Mr Latell, now a senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, obtained the information from Aspillaga after interviewing him for a new book about Castro’s intelligence operations.

According to the book, Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine, Aspillaga told his CIA debriefers: “Castro knew. They knew Kennedy would be killed.”

Mr Latell also writes that Oswald was refused a visa to visit Cuba at the country’s embassy in Mexico, and promised to shoot Kennedy to show he was a true revolutionary. The book says: “Fidel knew of Oswald’s intentions and did nothing to deter the act.”

The author told The Miami Herald: “I don’t say Fidel Castro ordered the assassination, I don’t say Oswald was under his control. He might have been, but I don’t argue that, because I was unable to find any evidence for that.

"But did Fidel want Kennedy dead? Yes. He feared Kennedy. And he knew Kennedy was gunning for him. In Fidel’s mind, he was probably acting in self-defence. Everything I write is backed up by documents and on-the-record sources."

The book also claims that five months after the assassination, Castro admitted that Oswald had threatened to kill Kennedy during his visit to the Cuban embassy in Mexico. Castro was said to have made the admission in a conversation with an FBI spy, Jack Childs.

Childs reported to his FBI handlers that Castro had described how Oswald “stormed into the embassy, demanded the visa, and when it was refused to him headed out saying ‘I’m going to kill Kennedy for this!’”

Another defector from Cuban intelligence, Rodriguez Ladera, said the Cuban embassy in Mexico was a centre for spying operations against the US and anything that happened there was reported to Castro. He said: “It caused much comment concerning the fact that Oswald had been in the Cuban embassy,”

CIA wiretaps also revealed that Cuban intelligence already had detailed knowledge of Oswald’s background in the hours immediately after the Kennedy shooting, the book said

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Jack had uncommon courage, unfailing humor, ever-cautious intelligence and over all matchless grace. He was our best. We will remember him always with love and sometimes, as the years pass and the story is retold, with a little wonder.

Charlie Bartlett - Kennedy family friend - 1963

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